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Living overseas

Curacao, Caribbean

29 replies

Lala84 · 18/08/2022 16:18

Hi lovely Mumsnetters, hoping some of you might be able to help us make a decision. Are any of you in Curacao or have any experience living there?

Hubby has been offered a job out there but we are just trying to work out if it would give us the quality of life we are after. Obviously, it has beautiful weather, beaches etc. and we hope for a more outdoor lifestyle but are very conscious that we want at least the same (pretty good) quality of life we have here in the UK or an improvement. We would not be moving to save any extra money but for an adventure / experience for us and the kids but don’t want to be in a worse off position financially if that makes sense.

We need to explore cost of living in more detail for sure but it’s hard to find much info due to the fact it’s a small island I guess. Our current situation is that husband works long hours with a long commute and brings in about £50k a year. I am a teacher but after going back to teaching after both children decided to take a break until they are both at school. I am currently working a very part time (easy & totally stress free) admin job and bringing in about £15k. We have two children - 3 & 5. Eldest about to go into year 1 and youngest starting school next Sep. We own a lovely house with a small mortgage which we could rent out for approx £2.5k per month. We manage to save approx £600 a month at present but could definitely save more if we tightened the purse strings a little. We live in a lovely village, outstanding school, kids do loads of activities, lovely friends etc. but it’s not exactly multi cultural and would love the kids to have broader life experiences / friendships rather than their current bubble.

Hubby has been offered a job for approx £65k... all moving costs, flights, medical insurance covered. Accommodation could be included with a salary sacrifice so that no tax is paid for that portion but I have no idea what monthly rental would be for a 3/4 bedroom house in a nice area. We’d also have to factor in school fees.....approx £15k a year (for primary ed) once both kids are at school. I wouldn’t be working certainly initially and think my only option would be teaching / perhaps tefl to bring in a little extra income as I don’t speak the local language Dutch (hubby does).

Does this sound doable on this salary? I’m really not sure that it is! Hubby is keen but he grew up in an expat family and moved all over the world as a child. He’s very keen to give our kids a similar experience but as a child his family had proper ‘expat contracts’ meaning schooling, accommodation etc. were all paid for, our situation is quite different. The job offer is from a (largish) curacao resort so we are not talking multi national company or anything! His family still live abroad so he’s used to not seeing them regularly. Mine don’t live locally to us but we’re talking a three hour drive rather than a plane ride and I have all the usual concerns about leaving family behind especially as parents get older etc.

Any thoughts / advice very grateful received! Thank you 😊

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maranella · 18/08/2022 16:25

I know absolutely nothing about Curacao, never been, but a quick internet search brought up this page Numbeo - Cost of living in Curacao, which says at the top that the cost of living is 21% higher than the UK.

As the two of you are currently bringing in £65k between you and your DH is due to be paid that in Curacao, unless you're able to work, your income will stay the same as it is now, but the cost of living will be 21% higher, which means you'll be 21% worse off.

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maranella · 18/08/2022 16:28

One other thing - you say your flights will be paid for - presumably this means your flights out there, but what about flights home each year? I'm assuming you won't want to move to Curacao and never come back. So what is the cost of one set of round-trip flights per year for your family to come home for a visit? If you'll be paying for those out of the £65k as well, that is a cost that you don't currently have that will further erode your annual income. So far this job offer sounds like it will make you quite a bit poorer!

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Lala84 · 18/08/2022 16:38

Thanks for the link......I think we need to find out more as to how much monthly rent would actually be there. We would bring in approx £20 -25k a year by renting our UK house allowing some to be put away for any maintenance etc. That link says rental is about 40% lower than UK but I think you’re right, factoring flights, school fees & increased cost of living we are going to be worse off. I’m not sure if there’s room for negotiation but I think numbers would have to be seriously increased. shame - I was already mentally sipping my cocktail on the beach! Haha

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LadyEloise1 · 18/08/2022 17:11

Because of this thread I looked up Curaçao.
It's very near Venezuela.
How do you pronounce Curaçao ?

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Sprig1 · 18/08/2022 17:19

LadyEloise1 · 18/08/2022 17:11

Because of this thread I looked up Curaçao.
It's very near Venezuela.
How do you pronounce Curaçao ?

Curr-aah-so (or could be sow), I think. The c with a squiggle is like an a.

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goshy · 18/08/2022 17:30

I've been to Aruba which is part of the same islands, beautiful part of the world.

pronounced with a sow at the end.

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LadyEloise1 · 18/08/2022 17:40

Thank you.

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maranella · 19/08/2022 08:37

You're wise to focus on the numbers and make sure they make sense, rather than getting too involved in rose-tinted daydreams (tempting though they are!)

I'm sure you can find estate agents online with some prices of rental homes. You can also use Google Streetview to check out what the island looks like on the ground and see if it's the kind of place you'd actually like to live. A Caribbean island is heaven for a week or two - but for potentially years? Only you can decide if like on a small island in a relatively remote location is one you'd all enjoy.

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maranella · 19/08/2022 08:37

*life

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Cormoran · 20/08/2022 07:29

From the comments, I wonder how many have actually been to Curacao . It is far from being a deserted island , it is quite developed compared to other Caribbean islands with a high International presence.
It would be an amazing opportunity to live there for a few years especially with such young children, and explore the area over the course of the years.
It is not a cheap island compared to some others but neither the most expensive.
When it comes to work for you, you should consider that with COVID, the remote work opportunities have never been so high. You should also consider that you won't have heating costs. You will still need some winter clothes for when you go back to UK but way less than if you were living there.

If as a expat you want to live in the same way, with the same foods, the same habits you had in your homeland , life will be more expensive. I am from Monaco and live in Sydney, but I am not looking for French food, French clothes, French cosmetics. Sometimes I buy them at a far greater price. What I am trying to say, is that those cost of living websites need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Do you expect Indian take aways every Friday? Soft play? things that are not local habits, be ready to pay for them. The price of a croissant in Sydney is 4 times the price I pay back home. But people eat weetbix or porridge or eggs and bacon for. breakfast here, not croissants.

Will you get richer or poorer? Quality of life isn't measured in monetary terms only. Your DH has crazy hours, you live in a small village with little diversity. You will have the opportunity to visit the Caribbean islands or Central America. Think Belize, Costa Rica, ...
This said, if you are just in for the money, you need to go to Dubai or other Gulf destinations.

I haven't lived in Curacao but spent 3 weeks there some years ago.
It was extremely safe to walk around, very different from how I felt walking alone in Martinique or Guadeloupe as a white woman and it is one of the few islands in which tap water is safe to drink as they have a very big desalination plant. This is important since it means you won't get sick from a drink with ice cubes or a salad washed in unsanitary water.

It is nice to live by the beach, going for a swim after school or before work. It is not only the weather, but the way of life, way less stressful and simpler. Will you be in Willemstad?

Yes distance from family is a pain, but you would live in a nice place and family and friends are likely to be very eager to visit!

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PurBal · 20/08/2022 07:35

I have family in the Caribbean, it’s too hot to have more of an outdoor lifestyle imo. But I think you need to negotiate a full expat package given the children. £65k is a good salary but when your forced to pay school fees and I assume regular visits to the UK (your post said flights included but I don’t know if that’s annual flights as an expat contract or just relocation costs). All of that said, I’d probably go for it an “make it work” as would be an amazing experience, I lived in a few countries as a child and it’s definitely been formative.

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UnityO · 20/08/2022 07:45

Adding together the salary and the money you make by renting out your house (almost as a 2nd income!) it sounds like you would be able to live to a decent standard on curaçao if you go choose to go.

Timing wise- your kids are at a good age to go too, once trey get older you have to start factoring in things like being in catchment for high school applications etc.

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Lala84 · 20/08/2022 10:03

Thank you so much for all your posts they have been so helpful. Weighing everything up I think it could be a fantastic life experience for us and the children if we can negotiate the figures a bit to make things stack up. I will update you!!

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Dasheen · 20/08/2022 10:21

maranella · 19/08/2022 08:37

You're wise to focus on the numbers and make sure they make sense, rather than getting too involved in rose-tinted daydreams (tempting though they are!)

I'm sure you can find estate agents online with some prices of rental homes. You can also use Google Streetview to check out what the island looks like on the ground and see if it's the kind of place you'd actually like to live. A Caribbean island is heaven for a week or two - but for potentially years? Only you can decide if like on a small island in a relatively remote location is one you'd all enjoy.

Many people leave in the Caribbean for a lot longer than 2 weeks and even their whole lives. What are you implying?

You can achieve a far superior quality of life in the Caribbean than the UK, especially as an expat. Plus island hopping is a great way to enjoy quick and cheap holidays.

Many people who live their entire lives in the UK are under the false impression that in developing countries it’s all about people living in shanty towns with pesky flies that seem to be on people’s face with said people never showing the natural human reaction to bat them away. Media here keep many less-travelled wrapped in ignorance.

Qu-ras-sow is beautiful and you will have a lovely life there, never having to worry about some of the things you have to do here - rude and stressed out people, high energy bills, cold, regular stabbings, etc

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maranella · 20/08/2022 10:39

Many people leave in the Caribbean for a lot longer than 2 weeks and even their whole lives. What are you implying?

I'm implying that having lived in the UK their whole lives, life on a small, Caribbean island will be very different. Why are you implying that I'm suggesting something else?

I have friends who've moved to small islands due to job opportunities and the novelty generally wears off pretty quickly, however beautiful they are. Being born and brought up on a small island means that's your normal.

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Dasheen · 20/08/2022 11:34

maranella · 20/08/2022 10:39

Many people leave in the Caribbean for a lot longer than 2 weeks and even their whole lives. What are you implying?

I'm implying that having lived in the UK their whole lives, life on a small, Caribbean island will be very different. Why are you implying that I'm suggesting something else?

I have friends who've moved to small islands due to job opportunities and the novelty generally wears off pretty quickly, however beautiful they are. Being born and brought up on a small island means that's your normal.

Many, many people live all their lives in the US, UK, Canada and relocate to small islands and live the rest of their days there. It all depends on what you like. If sitting in front of a TV and generally sedentary life is your thing then, yes the novelty will wear off. If on the other hand you enjoy being outdoors and active, it’s a haven. You can island hop and easily pop over to the US for a day or two.

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maranella · 20/08/2022 12:03

@Dasheen it's 3-hour flight from Curacao to Miami, so yes doable for a weekend, but the OP and her DH aren't going to be on a huge salary so I doubt they'll be able to do that flight very often. Visiting the other ABC islands is bound to be easier.

You seem to be implying that I'm being ignorant or racist (when I'm being neither). I know people who've lived in Bermuda, Grand Cayman and BVI and they all say that life is quiet, pleasant, hot, expensive and that the expat population is transient. This may be exactly what the OP is hoping for, in which case I wish her well.

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Dasheen · 20/08/2022 12:18

maranella · 20/08/2022 12:03

@Dasheen it's 3-hour flight from Curacao to Miami, so yes doable for a weekend, but the OP and her DH aren't going to be on a huge salary so I doubt they'll be able to do that flight very often. Visiting the other ABC islands is bound to be easier.

You seem to be implying that I'm being ignorant or racist (when I'm being neither). I know people who've lived in Bermuda, Grand Cayman and BVI and they all say that life is quiet, pleasant, hot, expensive and that the expat population is transient. This may be exactly what the OP is hoping for, in which case I wish her well.

I have neither said or implied that you are racist or ignorant. If these are labels you want to attached to yourself that is your choice.

Going to Cornwall from London is about 3hrs and rather expensive. The issue of finding something to take away the mundanity of one’s surroundings is not very different here in the UK. It depends on lifestyle too.

£65k p.a will do just fine over there. Most Caribbean countries use US dollars. The pound is weak now but still converts to something decent enough.

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maranella · 20/08/2022 13:14

I have neither said or implied that you are racist or ignorant.

I think you'll find that you have. This is what you wrote in response to an earlier reply of mine: Many people who live their entire lives in the UK are under the false impression that in developing countries it’s all about people living in shanty towns with pesky flies that seem to be on people’s face with said people never showing the natural human reaction to bat them away. Media here keep many less-travelled wrapped in ignorance.

Although, as a dual citizen who's lived in five countries this clearly doesn't apply to me.

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Dasheen · 20/08/2022 13:57

I was making a general point about the image that the media portrays of countries like that. You did not say anything about the country’s poverty so why did you think that general comment referred to you? You spoke about the novelty fading quickly which seems to me extremely different from suggestions of extreme deprivation.

You choose to attached the racist and ignorant labels to yourself because I have neither suggested it nor implied it in relation to the specific point you raised.

Stop trying to turn yourself into a victim of some perceived insult.

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maranella · 20/08/2022 14:02

Er okay, whatever. You referenced a post of mine before you made those comments. But I don't want derail the OP's post.

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Dasheen · 20/08/2022 14:20

You wanted me to start a fresh post to make another point so as to avoid you from making incorrect assumptions based on your fears and insecurities? You should own your issues. I’m not responsible for you seeing insults aimed at you when in fact there were none. If you still wish to believe that I was referring to you as a racist and ignorant, again that’s your problem and not mine. It’s not my responsibility to persuade you otherwise.

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Cormoran · 20/08/2022 19:42

I live on a very big island (Australia) , and this is my 7th destination, the last 4 with kids. Feeling off, and not always happy has nothing to do with the size of the land or living in a capital vs a small town.

All changes bring good and bad things, you say goodbyes, but you also say a lot of new hellos. Life by the sea is certainly sweeter for the kids. A tropical country has a very different rhythm of life compared to our metropolis. Where there is a high expat community such as Gulf countries, Shanghai , a small island in the Caribbean Sea and the kids go to international schools, you will find yourself to be very busy compared to a Sydney where you melt in the crowd and it is harder to make friends.

Your kids are small @Lala84 , the island is beautiful, it isn''t a forever decision. We create the opportunities as much as following them. Take a house with an extra room and rent it out, chances are you will find work at your husband's resort or other resort, even without dutch . or learn Dutch.
Or enjoy napping in a hammock in the breeze and living shoeless.

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Alaimo · 21/08/2022 19:12

Just make sure your sums on your anticipated rental income are right. Income tax (unless less than your personal allowances), letting agent fees, insurance, electricity/gas checks, etc all need to be deducted. You may also have to pay capital gain tax (proportional to the length of time you rent our your place) if/when you sell your house in the future.

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InvincibleInvisibility · 21/08/2022 20:14

We ve just moved to a French speaking Caribbean island (we re all bilingual).

I only accepted cos 1) the package is decent (move paid for, annual flights home paid for) and it is a brilliant career move for DH and he is paid enough for me to stop working and 2) it is for 3-4 years max.

Our plan is to enjoy the differences, explore the island, learn about the culture and island hop.

But I am well aware of the challenges. No social network yet, no support network yet (i have been here 2 weeks with the DC and we've been invited to a dinner at a colleague's house...except we have no babysitter yet and aren't even in our permanent house yet).

Everything is more expensive (even locally made yogurt is twice the price of what we paid in Paris for the same brand...). Waiting times are loooong (at least 6 weeks for our stuff to arrive).

The DC are starting new schools and don't know anyone. Plus we couldn't even get them into the same school so for the first time ever they'll be separated (they are 8 and 10). You need a car to go anywhere as public transport isn't good.

We re enjoying the sun and the beaches. But not the humid heat and the mosquitoes.

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